Burgundy on the 9s

Tasting Maison Joseph Drouhin's 2009 Burgundies.
Veronique Drouhin
Roger Morris

Veronique Drouhin

The last year of each decade has generally smiled on the winemakers of Burgundy — 1949, ‘59, ’69, ‘89 and ’99 were all very good to exceptional vintages — and the 2009s, which are just being released, are holding up their part of this truism.

“In most ways, 2009 was an easy vintage,” says Véronique Drouhin, head winemaker for the large and well-regarded Beaune-based family wine company, Maison Joseph Drouhin. “It let things happen according to our timing. There was absolutely no rot,” a common worry for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes in this classic region of eastern France. Drouhin, who also makes wine for the family’s Domain Drouhin property on Oregon, was in New York a few days ago to show her 2009s. “All the reds and whites — except the Montrachet — are in the bottle now,” she reported, “much earlier the the ‘08s.”

Drouhin, who runs the maison with her three brothers, characterizes the 2009 vintage as a “productive” one with good yields, a little lower in acidity but with “spectacular” tannins. The wines went through the softening malolactic or secondary fermentation by Christmas, and she did not keep most of them very long in the barrel. She thinks the 2009s will age well — “similar in profile to the ‘59s.”

“You can’t not like the ‘09s,” Drouhin concluded with a smile. So I took a glass in hand and set out to test her thesis.

While the larger Burgundy region is nowhere near as huge as Bordeaux, it is a long and very diverse strip of prize vineyards from Beaujolais in the south, up through the affordable properties of the Mâconnaise and Côte Chalonnaise, then into the Côte d’Or where the best, brightest and highest-prized vineyards are tended, and finally to Chablis to the northwest. Altogether, Véronique Drouhin brought 16 of her young Class of ‘09 to sample.

Among the whites, the creamy and fragrant Drouhin St.-Véran 2009 and the crisper 2009 Rully showed that Burgundy does have affordable Chardonnays — the former ideal for sipping and the latter an excellent food wine. The Côte d’Or ‘09 whites showed an array of attractions — the Meursault complex, creamy and floral with notes of cookies and crème fraiche, the Puligny-Montrachet lighter in body but with more-noticeable tannins, the Chassagne-Montrachet a little gamey with hints of cheese whey, the Chassagne-Montrachet “Marquis de Laguiche” tending to brioche and earthiness and the Beaune Clos des Mouches light and elegant with good closing minerality.

My favorite white, however, was a Chablis, the Grand Crus “Vaudésir,” with a lovely floral nose, a creamy and candied fruit middle palate and a beautiful finishing minerality.

Among the 2009 reds, the Volnay had a nice Pinot Noir gaminess, the Gevrey-Chambertin riper and rounder fruit, the Chassagne-Montrachet creamier with hints of almonds and a “sweeter” appearance, and the Clos de Vougeot full of dark cherries. The red version of the Clos des Mouches struck me as less impressive than the white from the same vineyard, with much less length and presence. A new vineyard to the Drouhin properties, the Savigny-les-Beaune “Clos des Godeaux,” had very nice bright cherry fruit and shows promise.

Perhaps I can tuck away a few of these reds — and whites — to compare 10 years from now with the next group of 9s — the 2019s — when they are ready to taste in 2021.